Quote of the Book: “The young grow up and the old become exhausted. Only if you live through winter do you understand what its hiding”
The Dog Who Dared To Dream comes from same Korean author, Sun-Mi Hwang, who previously wrote The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly. By pure chance, I happened to read this book just before another Korean export, The Vegetarian, over the same weekend and they could not have been more different. Whereas Han Kang’s The Vegetarian dealt with a dark, deeply unsettling subject matter, Sun-Mi Hwang’s work read like a breath of fresh air. One could only compare it to enjoying a warm bowl of stew with the ingredients being simply and easy to digest and the aftertaste suitably satisfactory and fulfilling.
The dog in question, Scraggly, begins life as an ugly duckling of sorts. Born with a darker hue of fur than her siblings, she is immediately shunned as an outcast by both man and dog alike. Life is tough for our young pup and it takes several of life’s harsh lessons to help her find her place in the world.
The tale follows Scraggly from puppyhood right up to old age and this portrays not only all the trials and tribulations of canine life but also includes the lives of those around our main character. Scraggly belongs to an elderly couple and enjoys a fractious yet loving relationship with her owner Grandpa Screecher. Through the eyes of Scraggly, we witness the endless cycle of the seasons and how they shape the immediate world around this small family unit. Winter comes and goes extracting a heavy price with each visit. Friends are won and lost over time. When disaster strikes, the after effects are long lasting and irreversible but life continues regardless.
Scraggly’s life in many ways becomes a metaphor for our own. Scraggly undoubtedly loves her family, but there are times when she fosters a strong hatred towards them. Scraggly hates her enemies, but she ultimately enjoys the familiarity of their company. The classic dog-cat rivalry features throughout the story as Scraggly constantly verbally duels with the cryptic cat on the wall. Another surprise addition to the yard causes consternation and comic value much later in the story.
As Scraggly reaches the end of her long life, the author prompts us to reflect on the meaning of it all ourselves. For me, this book is a celebration of the journey that life takes us all on. It is an ode to time and its constant flow. On finishing the final page, there was no sense of a final ending for me. Sun-Mi Hwang ensures that we leave her work full of hope and wonder at our role in the immense fabric of life and what lies beyond.
Would I recommend this book to a friend?
An ideal read for the reluctant reader and a must for any dog lovers. The Dog Who Dared To Dream is a nice, simple read to enjoy over a long weekend.